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Prepare for the Future by Building Capabilities Today

Five priorities for growth.

Work with other distributors as collaborative communities – Distributors can also look to their community to identify and develop critical capabilities for competing in the digital age. Granted, distributors within a line of trade compete with each other. One new idea is about cross-line-of-trade collaborations. In the same way that Amazon partners with Best Buy, distributors may find ways to collaborate around innovative ideas and building capabilities. Buying groups may play a similar role.

Be Up at Night

Distributors know that change is happening, that it’s real, that it’s different than in the past, and that it’s accelerating. In our research, we identified ten questions that can help distributors identify and prioritize the worries that keep them up at night, and the plans for creating the associated capabilities in their people, teams, and company:

1. Does my leadership team have the right mindset for driving digital progress and innovation?

2. Do our digital capacities need to be very strong or game-changing? How do we even get there?

3. Are my best suppliers sitting back to see if distributors make digital progress? Do they care if distributors fail to respond to Amazon’s challenge?

4. Do I have anyone in my organization who can do advanced analytics? Have I given enough leadership to develop our capabilities?

5. Am I missing opportunities by not looking for changes to our business model? Do we know how to go about driving innovation?

6. Do I have the ability to influence customers and guide them to shift to our e-commerce platform?

7. What would happen if customers wanted distributors to have a fully capable e-commerce platform overnight?

8. Are my digital capabilities stronger than a year ago? Do my suppliers or customers notice? Do I tell them?

9. Are supplier rebates killing initiative and innovation in my company?

10. Do I have the foresight to lead my company into the digital age?

A Look Ahead to MDM’s Digital Distributor Summit (December 4-6)

At the conference, I will discuss what I am learning in my research phase for the next Facing the Forces of Change® report to be published by the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW). Our goal is to spend the next year in an active dialog with distributors about forces that are changing their business and markets and helping leaders connect the dots from forces to innovations. I’ll share ideas that you can use today and I look forward to learning about your thoughts, experiences and questions. Your input will help shape our research and the value we can create for the community of wholesaler-distributors. For more information and to be notified when Facing the Forces of Change® is available, go to To order your copy of CEO Insights on Innovating the Distributor for the Digital Age, go to

Mark Dancer, Founder, Network for Channel Innovation, is a leading authority on channel innovation, business transformation and digital technologies. Mark is also an NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Fellow and the lead researcher for the 12th edition of Facing the Forces of Change®.





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